Back from pregnancy hiatus, UFC on ESPN+ 24’s Sara McMann won’t repeat past mistakes

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RALEIGH, N.C. – Sara McMann returns to MMA with a new mentality after a break of nearly two years which included the birth of her second child.

McMann (11-5 MMA, 5-5 UFC) hasn’t competed since a February 2018 loss to Marion Reneau, but returns Saturday at UFC on ESPN+ 24 when she meets Lina Lansberg (10-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC) in a bantamweight bout.

Not since starting the sport has McMann had such a long break from competition, but she said she never strayed away too far from the gym, even while pregnant.

“It’s kind of like coming home,” McMann told MMA Junkie of her octagon return. “In a way it feels like I’ve been away for a long time. In a way it feels like it was just a minute. I trained all throughout my pregnancy. I tried to do as much as I could for as long as I could and I set specific goals during that time, too. So I wanted to clean up the areas I was always focusing on doing.”

McMann said the majority of her training time was dedicated to upping her level in the striking and jiu-jitsu departments. She’s “improved a lot,” she said, and hopes to show as much in her upcoming showdown with Lansberg, who she knows is a capable opponent coming off back-to-back underdog wins against Macy Chiasson and Tony Evinger.

The fight is part of the prelims of UFC on ESPN+ 24, which stream on ESPN+ along with the rest of the card at PNC Arena.

Now 39 and a mother of two, McMann said she isn’t sure what her longevity in the sport looks like. She’s 100 percent dedicated to climbing to the top of the mountain, though, and not having won since February 2017, this fight is critical to that aspiration.

The former UFC title challenger and Olympic silver medalist has always wanted the belt, but admitted to taking mental missteps. She has a different perspective than what she left with 23 months ago, however, and believes that will be beneficial to her success.

“I think in the past I have looked ahead too far and that’s gotten me in trouble,” McMann said. “It’s got me to not focus on what’s right in front of me at the moment. So right now, I’m only looking at this fight. Then I’ll look at the next fight. I always ask for top opponents. So right after this I will want a top opponent and that will naturally lead me closer to the gold.”